The schedule isn’t the only thing that is changing in the NFL. Changes are coming to the combine. The first change is what time the events will be held. For the first time, the on-field workouts will be aired in the late afternoon and primetime slots, instead of early morning and afternoon. Moving the time that these events are broadcasted has reportedly been in the works for some time as the NFL is attempting to gain a wider audience. Jeff Foster, the president of National Football Scouting Inc.,—which is the group that runs the combine—assembled a committee of five general managers to review each aspect of every event. Here are some of the changes that we’ll see at the NFL Combine next week.
The bench press has been a combine staple since 1985. If you’ve ever bench pressed, you understand that the lift isn’t the best indicator of football strength. There are easy ways to cheat the exercise, like bouncing the barbell off your chest. It’s more of an endurance strength test than anything. There have been talks about changing to more functional football strength exercises. Pull-ups have been thrown out as suggestions, but why not have the players hang clean? Or “snatch?” Those are lifts that do a better job of telling us how strong a person is than a bench press. Nobody is taking a skill player off their board because he can only bench 225 eight times.
Changes on the field
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but all this is to boost TV ratings. People love the draft. Like, obsessed with it. Every year there is a new rating record. That’s not just on Thursday. That’s on Saturday, too. The changes that you’ll read are more about entertainment purposes than they are actual...football purposes. Love the NFL!
Foster said eight or nine position-specific drills have been cut from the workouts and replaced with the same number of new drills. Popular drills like the “gauntlet,” which is where receivers and defensive backs run in a straight line catching passes while turning their head to each side, and the “W” drill will be timed events. Here was Foster’s reasoning for making this a timed drill: “The idea is to make it more competitive for the group of players. See if that data helps us as an evaluation, and also make it more exciting for the fans and on TV.”
The W drill isn’t designed for speed, but concise footwork and fluidity. You want your defensive back to be fast out of his break, but I can already see announcers referencing “the fastest backpedal in the combine,” which means absolutely nothing. Being first, in this instance, is worthless. I’m surprised there wasn’t more pushback on this. Another new event is the “smoke route,” which is when the receiver takes a one-step hitch. That will be timed from when the quarterback releases the ball to when the ball hits his hands. What are we testing here? Arm strength? Quick-release? This is an odd drill to incorporate. One new drill that I like is the defensive linemen running the figure-eight pass-rush drill. This drill highlights flexibility without losing speed. This is a great idea.